In-car infotainment systems have long been pretty bad. As touchscreens entered the game, things only got worse, especially in the way of applications. Google and Apple both have ways to fix that, but they don’t provide functionality that the car’s system has, such as climate controls.
With the option to build Android into manufacturers own systems, Google is making it easier for car makers to integrate options like Google Assistant and Android apps into vehicles, and at I/O 2017, we’ve gone hands on.
The best gifts for Android users
At I/O, two of Google’s car partners were present with demos of how they integrated Android into their infotainment systems. We took a look at Volvo’s system, which is placed on a large touchscreen at the center of the dashboard. The experience here is very touch-oriented, with large buttons that make it easy for users to access the needed settings, controls, and data.
The first option is navigation, which uses a self-contained version of Google Maps that, visually, is very similar to the one seen on Android Auto. From there, there’s a music setting which can pull from Spotify, but also apps that have been designed for Android Auto, such as Pocket Casts. Since these are simply Android applications, they can be updated by the developers with ease.
Further, this system can use Bluetooth to connect to a user’s smartphone and pull contacts for the dialer, as well as route calls. Climate controls are at the bottom of the display and are always present.
What’s most interesting about this system is the integration of Google Assistant. Just like on Android Auto, this can be used to control smart home appliances in the home as a user is on their commute, but it can also be used to control aspects of the car.
For example, you can ask Assistant to make the car cooler or warmer and it will interact with the climate controls to fulfill that request. This is something no Android Auto setup can do. Further, Assistant can be accessed through a tap on the steering wheel controls, or through an “Ok Google” command.